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  1. Greetings,

    I am a student at The University of Oklahoma, I am working on an assignment concerning evolution. Are the gaps in the fossil record an issue with the case for evolution? I know transitional species have been discovered, but with the incredible span of time, and fossils really only give a snapshot of what was where it was. Meaning we have a fairly good idea of who it was, and what it may have been related to before, and after the creature lived, but how are we absolutely certain what it was exactly?

    1. Avatar for Matthew Hawthorne Matthew Hawthorne says:

      Great question!

      A great source to this question can be found here: Using creation science to demonstrate evolution: application of a creationist method for visualizing gaps in the fossil record to a phylogenetic study of coelurosaurian dinosaurs – SENTER – 2010 – Journal of Evolutionary Biology – Wiley Online Library

      In short… no. Gaps in the fossil record are inevitable given the rarity of fossilization and the significant limitations on our ability to uncover them. Some animals have fairly straightforward evolutionary lineages and the evidence is strong, such as the whale example. Whales are alive and can be studied and compared to extinct variants that match up.

      Compare this to trying to decipher which dinosaur lineages evolved into which, and it becomes a crap shoot. Many animals are only known from a handful of fossils.

      So we cannot be absolutely sure that one species shares a close evolutionary link with another. In fact, many assertions of science change when new species are discovered.

      Imagine that we have a 1,000-piece puzzle of a bird. If you had say, 400 pieces you may be able to tell that the puzzle is of a bird and could convince an onlooker of the same because of the obvious features that have been put together. The counterargument would be to say that because you don’t have every piece, you can’t come to any conclusion.

      This article – Misconceptions about evolution – Understanding Evolution ( covers broad misconceptions about evolution, each subtopic could make for an interesting essay on its own.

      Few if any things are known with certainty in science, so we act on eliminating the alternative explanations as best as possible and remain open to new data.